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My determination to become a doctor was not a spur-of-the-moment decision; rather, it is the product of many years of careful consideration. Likewise, I know that the road ahead is a long one. So far, however, I feel that this gradual solidifying of interests and aptitudes has worked in my favor by increasing my level of maturity and allowing me to accumulate relevant experience. Most important, it has made me more confident about the choices I am making regarding my professional and personal future.
As a child, I envisioned helping other people just as my grandfather did when he was a doctor. He often donated part of his time to individuals who could not afford health care in rural areas of India and Africa. As I grew older, my own experiences — as a volunteer in a hospital emergency room and as a tutor for underprivileged children from Harlem — reinforced my sense of community.
After not being accepted to a medical school the first time around, I felt disappointed. I contacted several medical school admissions officers, who suggested that I should work primarily on improving my academic record. I asked myself yet again the most fundamental questions: How important was it for me to go to medical school? Did I really want to spend more time trying to get in when I had no guarantees of admission?
At the time, I felt I could not readily answer these questions. I decided to get a fresh start by securing a job dealing with scientific research. Following my interest in the biological sciences, I moved to Philadelphia to pursue a master’s degree in biochemistry. Initially, the experience proved more difficult that I had expected; I suddenly found myself in an entirely new environment, with no friends.
Gradually, I adjusted to my new surroundings. For the first time in a long while, I started to enjoy my classes. Subjects I had not really been previously exposed to before, such as pharmacology and pathology, renewed my enthusiasm for studying. I was particularly fascinated by how the different drugs and diseases affect the human body. My newly-found optimism coincided with my ability to make new friends and build new relationships. Within a few months, I felt as if I belonged here. But something still seemed to be missing.
When I started working on my thesis project in the neurosurgery department, I had the opportunity to meet a number of doctors and medical students. The sheer dedication with which they pursued their work inspired me: it re-ignited my own desire to do something more challenging. I realized that I did not want to just work in a lab for the rest of my life. Although I have enjoyed pursuing research projects, I find the laboratory setting a little closed to the outside environment, because I have very little contact with the people I am trying to help. As a doctor, I could affect people in a more tangible fashion. Having experienced the pure-research track, I am now confident that the constant human interaction required by the medical profession would allow me to maximize both my knowledge and skills.
When I look back on how I have spent my time since my first round of medical school applications, I am glad that I am a little older than most medical students. I feel that, by testing my interests and abilities in another field, I have further strengthened my desire and commitment to become a physician. The first application process allowed me to realize the importance of a solid academic experience, and it gave me a chance to step back and reevaluate my goals for the future. I know that this process of maturing will make me a better and more compassionate doctor, and I now feel more prepared than ever for the rigors of medical school.